Tragic news from New York that the Frick is planning a massive expansion. The Frick is run by arrogant, philistine self-promoting morons who want to make the unique Frick collection into a museum as much like any other as possible. They're taking a beautiful unique boutique and turning it into WalMart.
The New York Times reports that staff at the Frick have increased from 160 to 220 in 25 years. Why? What do they need to do now that they didn't before? Looking after this small collection shouldn't take too many people, but hubristic senior staff and trustees want to expand for the sake of expansion - "Accumulate! Accumulate! This is Moses and the prophets". They want to build a bigger conservation lab for their tiny collection. Why not just share the Met's facilities, just across the road? Once they've built a grand new lab, the pressure will be on to restore relentlessly - creating work and doing harm. Don't expand the conservation centre, close it.
The Frick is one of the most common choices for 'favourite museum' partly because of its modest size and quiet ambiance. New York has dozens of museums offering special exhibitions; the city doesn't need the Frick to join the competition for blockbusters, and the Frick doesn't need them. It was absurd that such a small space was used for the recent Mauritshuis show, when there are better venues in New York. The standard explanation is the need to accommodate rising visitor numbers. But adding square footage doesn't mean that you can see the pictures more easily. The Living Hall has two Titians, two Holbeins, an El Greco and a Bellini, together with some good Boulle furniture, bronzes and a fabulous Mughal rug. How is it any easier to see these works if you add some tens of thousands of square feet at the back for special exhibitions and an auditorium?
Previous expansions were modest and in keeping with the character of the house. This great carbuncle follows the fashion for big and brash expansions to provide ancillary spaces and does nothing for the art. Most of the collection is already shown, and much that isn't is second rate (a bad damaged Hals, a Cappelle that isn't, a Van der Burgh bought as a Hooch, etc). The extra space is for blockbusters, not to show treasures from the stores. And recent acquisitions at the Frick have been woeful. The money needed for this barbarous expansion would better be spent buying something really good (maybe the Mantegna that was on loan for many years and is still in private hands).
There's a good critique in the New York Times, here.